THE uncertainty that seems to have gripped the world at large has had no impact on the local IT industry. It’s not because they have found a method in Trump’s madness, but because the sector has little at stake, they say.

“No US tech company has a development centre here. So Trump or no Trump, there’ll be hardly any impact on us,” said a Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) official who declined to be identified.

The countries whose IT workers could be directly affected by radical shifts in US long-standing policy are those where American companies have outsourced their jobs and set up offshore development centres, he said.

India, for example, should be worrying if Trump gets serious about his buy-American, hire-American dream, the official added.

“I don’t think our IT exports are going to take a hit. Frankly, we are not directly relevant to this situation,” an official at Cisco Systems told Dawn. “Besides, I think it’s too early to give any definitive view,” he said, stressing that it takes six to eight months to exactly know what an incoming government is trying to achieve.

The manufacturing sector, he said, may be the victim, but not the tech industry. “The IT sector is a little amorphous. You cannot confine it to a boundary,” he said.

Shakir Husain, CEO of Creative Chaos, a technology, digital and outsourcing services company, agreed there would be little impact on Pakistan as the country’s exposure to H-1B visas is limited.

Moreover, Pakistan’s software industry is minuscule when compared with India, whose IT exports are near $100 billion.

In contrast, Pakistan’s exports of tech and IT services and software, according to PSEB statistics, stand at around $2.5bn a year at present, including exports generated by IT companies and freelancers.

The exports are projected to touch $10bn by 2025, but they must grow by at least 20 per cent each year to reach that target. Growth in IT exports was 41pc in 2014-15 and 18pc in the preceding fiscal year.

Domestic revenue generated through local sales of software and IT services is around Rs52.5bn ($500 million), hence the total revenue of Pakistan’s IT industry exceeds $3bn.

However, data from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) paints a far less rosy picture, showing not all exports are documented. According to the central bank, exports of telecommunications, computer, and information services were only $821m in 2014-15, which went down to $784m in 2016-17 and amounted to just 15pc of the country’s overall service exports.

“Data is a big problem in Pakistan... We fear data, we are afraid of documentation,” explained Husain.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2017

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